Epson 3880 P2 inkset puddling/smearing in dark areas



Perhaps I should have called this thread “what am I doing wrong?”… I’m experiencing some problems with puddling and smearing on the darkest ink, trying to make a negative for pt/pd printing. Some background information on what I am using:

Mac OS X Maverick
Epson 3880
P2 Piezography digital negative (6 inks including matte black)
Pictorico Premium OHP transparency film
QTR Print - Image TIFF-16 Gamma 2.2
Curve: P2M-PZDN-X800-Meth3-1_6v3 through 1_8v3

ink slot 1: MK / Selenium Matte Black
ink slot 2: PK / Flush
ink slot 3: Light Black / Selenium 6
ink slot 4: Light Light Black / Selenium 4.5
ink slot 5: Cyan / Selenium 2
ink slot 6: Magenta / Selenium 4
ink slot 7: Light Cyan / Selenium 3
ink slot 8: Light Magenta / Selenium 5
ink slot 9: Yellow / Selenium 2.5

Below is a partial scan of the negative I have printed last night with the 1.8 curve. The 1.8 curve lays more ink so it shows the most problems I’ve been having, but these do show as well with the 1.6 and 1.7 curves.

The second image is a crop of the above image, with the original negative on top. I’ve circled in red areas of puddling and smearing. I’ve highlighted in green another weird aspect where the dark ink(s) form lines on the edges.

Below is a 200% enlargement of the step tablet. Again, you can see the puddling in the darkest areas, along with the lines around the numbers. You can also see some smearing on the edges, looking like I used spray paint and a stencil… I did a nozzle check before printing and the smearing was not as prominent as it is in this case. The detail below is actually the second print. Does this mean I have to do a nozzle check before printing every negative?

Thank you in advance for your help and guidance, i much look forward to making beautiful and clean negatives! Dana knows that I’ve experienced some difficulties installing the cartridges; they were all unrecognized. But putting some small pieces of paper beneath three of the chips seem to have resolve the issue.

One last thing: upon Dana’s suggestion, I printed the negative on matte paper. I used the P2M curve for Canson Photo Rag, but only had a sheet of the Canson Mi-Teintes. The print looks sharp and clean. The paper is however a bit rippled from being wet. I have no idea if this is normal, if it is the paper or the curve I used, but it looks clean and consistent with the original file.

Thanks again,



Hi Gilles,

This is very helpful information. Thanks. Something is not quite right judging by the way the ink is heavy in those areas. We are not using Mavericks in the studio and have no need to use Mavericks - so we can not trouble shoot Mavericks directly. Most all our studio systems are frozen on the 10.4.7 so that all manners of color management can be controlled without silent interference from Apple.

The QTR Print Tool is required use for anything OSX 10.6 and above or Piezography will not print correctly on Mac OSX. It is the only way to prevent the Apple OS from converting the file prior to printing.

Are you using QTR Print Tool - or are you printing directly to QTR from some application. Can you let me know that so I can help troubleshoot this.




One further question. Are you following our neg instructions or Paul Taylor’s?


Hi Jon, Thank you for your prompt reply! I am using QTR Print Tool, and using the 3880 driver installed by the command provided by Roy. I’ve watched your video using QTR Print tool; and I am pretty sure I’ve mimicked it religiously. Here are some screen grabs:

In regards to the neg instructions, The only instructions I’m using from Paul Talyor for now was is recommendation to buy the Piezo inks and print from QTR. We only did positives for photogravure together, and I must say I was stunt by the quality of the positives. I’ve been making digital negatives for pt-pd prints for several years now, and with the help of the techniques out-there, developed a workflow to make somewhat decent negatives using the standard Epson driver and colored ink. However, my curve is fairly steep and destructive, and the idea of making a negative/positive without a curve, or perhaps a gentle one, is very appealing. I’m therefore starting from scratch, and I want to make negatives with your instructions, to see how good of a print I can make with your curves and inks. Since I have a long experience with pt/pd printing, I thought I’d first try to master it before moving one to making positives for photogravure.

My workflow is the following:

  1. Open in Photoshop with Gamma 2.2 settings. Convert image to grey scale if necessary.
  2. Invert layer, flatten, flip horizontally
  3. Save as TIFF-16
  4. Import into QRT Print
  5. QTR Print setting as above:
  • no color management / 16-bit output
  • QuadTone Rip 16-bit / Curve 1 = P2M…1_8v3 / Curve 2 and 3 = none
  • Paper feed: Manual Front (tried feeding it through standard feed but getting pizza wheels; not getting any with Manual front)
  • Resolution: 2880 dpi
  • Speed: Uni-directional
  • Black Ink: Matte Ink
  1. Print

One thing I’ve been wondering about is how to run the Print Head Alignment and Nozzle Check. Because of the paper thickness and type of media used for negatives, I’ve loaded 8.5 x 11 sheets of pictorico. Nozzle Check > Auto and Print Head Alignment (all three paper options) return a Paper Sensor Error message. However, I can do a Nozzle Check > Print on the pictorico, and it looks good.

Thanks again, Gilles


you’re doing everything right. you are perfect to troubleshoot because you supply so much info. we have a few 3800 and 3880 customers on mavericks right now with too dark output on K7 prints. we confirmed this last week with some targets sent in to us.

To really trouble shoot this on our end is going to require installing a mavericks workstation and figure out the workaround to bypass or compensate whatever is converting the file prior to printing.

we have isolated these in 10.5, 10.6, 10.7 and issued work arounds - but we thought that the Print Tool eliminated anything happening by OS X. there is some possibility that it is not.

We will have to invest in a dedicated Mavericks workstation in order to figure this out. I don’t think that you’re doing anything you should not be. I do think that mavericks is doing something it should not be.

Do you have access to Windows (it doesn’t touch the file as does Apple)? Or do you have access to a Mac with 10., 10.5 or 10.6. You may be able to help us confirm this hypothesis and we can issue the fix for OS X in those three versions. With Windows it actually is plug and play through at least version 7 Pro (which we use).


take a look at this:

we thought with Print Tool that this would not be an issue any longer.



Forgot to write that I’m trying to follow the P2 methodology 3; I really like the idea of being able to make digital proofs on matte paper and negatives without ink swapping. My philosophy has always been to try to keep it as simple as possible when it comes to making digital negatives. I’d rather spend time in my darkroom and studio making prints…! As I wrote in my first post, my 3880 is loaded with the following (in that order from left to right):

ink slot 1: MK / Selenium Matte Black
ink slot 2: PK / Flush
ink slot 3: Light Black / Selenium 6
ink slot 4: Light Light Black / Selenium 4.5
ink slot 5: Cyan / Selenium 2
ink slot 6: Magenta / Selenium 4
ink slot 7: Light Cyan / Selenium 3
ink slot 8: Light Magenta / Selenium 5
ink slot 9: Yellow / Selenium 2.5

Here is a quick scan of the Nozzle Check printout:


Just read your above post and article Jon… Remember this issue back in 2008 or 2009 when I upgraded OS X and PDN didn’t work anymore. That’s when I decided to work out my own method… So what should I do? Do you want me to try to print from Photoshop? But based on the what I read in the article, Lord knows which gamut and color space 10.9 is using… And I’ve upgraded to CS CC…


What we will do is measure the output and see how off linear it is in OSX 10.8 and OSX 10.9

We will get a 10.8 system and make a 10.9 partition and test both. Then we need to know how to reverse it.

Not pretty…and not quick.

For me - I could not take this rollercoaster ride on Apple any more and I built a very bad ass photoshop pc with my choice of components. Now I’m on Windows and Apple can’t touch my files. Sad state of affairs considering I’ve been making digital prints on Macs since 1984. :frowning:

You can test the fixes on that blog with film. Have to use your K6 curves and make prints to measure.


I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… I just got this beautiful Macbook Pro Retina, and the screen is so beautiful, I can finally edit images on a laptop… But thank you for the vote of confidence, I have been kicking myself trying to figure out what I was doing wrong! So as history is repeating itself, I suppose it is time I setup a computer dedicated to printing… I ran by the office and found an old laptop running 10.6.8 and with CS4 installed. I see you have instructions for 10.6.8 and CS5+CS6. Alternatively I dug out my daughter’s old crappy PC, running Windows 7. Which one would you recommend? I don’t have PS for Windows, and would rather not have to buy it… I think QTR Print Tool is only mac OS X…

Let me know if you need to troubleshoot Maverick; I’m happy to send you whatever prints you need. But I don’t think I want to wait, and would rather set-up a stable printing device so that i can back to the darkroom and do what I do best: analog printing :slight_smile:

Thanks again, Jon,



YowHoo! My hero!

So Mavericks is like the best thing ever if you need to sync iPod to iPhone while shopping online and be susceptible to latest in incessant shopping carts (pick up on your iPhone where you left off on our laptop). They rock at this technology. But when it comes to printing and calibration they left that bit out of their motivation recognizing now that most of their new consumers are going to print to screen and be more than happy with anything coming out of their printers. The color calibration companies will be the next thing to fall. RIP companies have already. Just not a printmaker’s world anymore.

So with such a bunch of tools at your disposal I would go Windows and download and run the QTR GUI and let me know if that makes the over-inking go away.

If so then you can get started and we will do our updates after figuring out the changes in 10.8 and 10.9.


Crazy… after being the leader in digital imaging for the longest time…! How can I use QTR on Windows? I don’t have Photoshop for it. QTR Tool is only for Mac OS X. Do you have any suggestions?


Just tried printing with 10.6.8 and CS4 and I’m having the same issues and over-inking, although it is a bit better. See below a scan of 1.8 density:

I’ve been looking at the printer laying down the ink, and it’s really the last ink that is too thickly applied. The first passes are very smooth and but the last pass puts a heavy black ink on the other inks. Which ink is this? The Matte Black? I did another experiment with the Custom Paper setting, and especially the drying time. 1 sec was slightly better, but I noticed a big improvement with 3 sec. I’m now trying to print with Maverick again (since 10.6.8 didn’t seem to be a great improvement), with 5 seconds drying time between each pass. This is something I did with the Epson driver; I don’t remember how much I was doing and it wasn’t as long as 5 sec, but it helped a lot. Will post results.


You don’t print from Photoshop in Windows.

QTR is a standalone and you open a TIF file and lay it out in the window and select your curve and print. It’s the purest form of QTR. You are doing this to see if the film is printed normal in Win 7. Just a test. If it does then you use it for now and have something to look forward to.

No black ink should be printing at all if you are setup correctly. Look at the curve you are using in QTR-CurveView.


Jon, I’ve just made some immense progress… no more puddling and dark lines! And in Maverick… This is the 1.7 curve; I figured I’d try it since you liked it for pt/pd. I created a custom paper profile with 5 seconds drying time between each pass. All the steps of the step tablet are smooth and distinctive, which was not the case before. See for yourself:

I have the following questions, though:

  1. although I have a decent negative, do you think the ink percentage is correct?

  2. Please look at the bottom left of the step tablet; the ink smears a bit on the white, and the numbers are not very sharp. What do you think this? I ran an auto nozzle check earlier today and it printed the chess grids patterns; they were slightly off. Is there a way to align the print heads with the pictorico?

Thank you…



the ink looks correct but it looks blurry to me. it should be crisp on Pictorico.
Pictorico is about as thick as Epson premium glossy - so perform the alignment on it. Alignment is based upon height of the medium.


I’ve just finished installing QTR GUI and the Epson 3880 on my daughter’s old laptop, which runs windows 7. Good thing I didn’t give it away. It is so painfully slow, there is no one I dislike enough to give such a poisonous gift. And now it’s doing a better job than my state of the art macbook pro…! I just ran a print, and it lays a lot less ink from looking at it printing. And no puddling… a couple of faint black lines and still some blurriness. I only have 8x10 glossy on hand so I will run to the store tomorrow to get a pack of letter size and run the printer alignment head. Hopefully this will do it… Thank you for all your help today Jon, especially on a weekend, I really appreciate it… I will report tomorrow once I have done a alignment. Best wishes, Gilles


We will deal with 10.8 and 10.9 in 2014. One way or the other…
Have a merry!


Hi Jon,

Any update on the printing dark problem on 3800 / 3880 with certain versions of MacOS - specifically 10.8? (using QTR Print, of course).


We’re busy testing, and although the results are VERY strange, we hope to have information/answers soon! We appreciate feedback from others having this issue to gather as many details as possible, and patience while we trouble shoot and get to the bottom of this strange problem.

Best regards~ Dana